Torres must prove ace brace is no false dawn

Posted by Phil Lythell

Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty ImagesTwo goals and he could have scored more: a good day for El Nino, but is it proof that he's back?

After a first win in eight Premier League matches that featured a brace from Fernando Torres, the question hanging on the lips of most Chelsea fans will be: Is this finally the turning point?

An entirely merited 3-1 victory at Sunderland has been greeted more with relief than ecstasy. The rot has been stopped for the moment, but can the Blues now look to the future with confidence?

- Video -- Benitez: We want to win every trophy

Whenever Torres gets on the scoresheet it is a cause for celebration, so seldom has it occurred since he joined from Liverpool almost two years ago. The Spaniard has four strikes to his name from his last couple of outings in what is something of a goal glut, raising the hope that it is a sign of things to come.

The appointment of Rafa Benitez was controversial in the extreme, but one of the main thought processes behind it was to extract the old Torres from his current torpor. It is too early to say whether that has been a definitive success, though the events of the past four days have provided cause for encouragement.

The most gratifying element of his game was the nonchalant way in which he dispatched both of his goals. Torres was involved in the build-up to the first -- even if he was lucky not to be whistled up for a foul -- then timed his run perfectly to poke home Eden Hazard's pinpoint cross, a finish hugely reminiscent of his prolific time on Merseyside.

In a way, the second was even more impressive. Much was made of the striker refusing Juan Mata's offer to take a penalty in Chelsea's FA Cup replay against Birmingham last season, and the matter was brought up once again when Torres failed to step up to take either of the two awarded against Nordsjaelland in midweek. Whether it was the confidence soaring through his veins from breaking his goal drought or a word in his ear from the manager, Torres grabbed the ball and calmly slotted home from 12 yards. A hat-trick would have been the perfect way to finish off a pleasing display, but at least his best subsequent effort allowed Mata to finish after the ball thumped back off the crossbar.

Before everyone gets carried away, there do have to be notes of caution sounded. Torres could have had two goals prior to his opener had he been a little sharper; first he was unable to meet a Mata cross having been stood on his heels, then he failed to sort his feet quickly enough after a defensive mix-up saw the ball fall to him six yards out. There have also been more than a fair share of false dawns where the 28-year-old is concerned, and while I sincerely hope that it is not the case this time round, it would not be a huge surprise if it proved to be no more than a blip.

Equally, it would be best to keep some perspective in the wake of this result. A poor Sunderland team that was lacking in confidence was there for the taking, yet in both halves the Black Cats managed to place Chelsea under some real pressure. The onslaught in the first period came after Oriol Romeu had to come off through injury and was replaced by Oscar. The young defensive midfielder is unspectacular, but he is effective; his ensuing absence allowed the home side to physically impose themselves on the slight pairing of Ramires and Oscar.

Those shifts in momentum saw Chelsea begin to hit long angled passes hoping to relieve the pressure, yet all it succeeded in doing was giving possession back to the opposition and allowing the home crowd an extra voice. Being unused to winning matches inevitably causes some nerves to flutter as the Blues began to defend deeper and deeper in the second half after Adam Johnson's goal. Ultimately they held firm despite Craig Gardner rattling the bar late on from a free-kick, though improvements will be needed if winning is to become a habit once again.

Yet in the end a win is a win, especially after so long without one in the league. Chelsea can now fly to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup with a gentle spring in their step after two consecutive victories. If the Blues return home with the trophy and the tag of world champions, perhaps we can all look forward to a merry Christmas after all.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

ESPN Conversations